A Film in Which I Play Everyone: Poems (Paperback)

A Film in Which I Play Everyone: Poems By Mary Jo Bang Cover Image
Available, order here for delivery or pickup.
On hand as of May 27 6:50pm


A Film in Which I Play Everyone takes its title from a response David Bowie gave to a fan who asked if he had upcoming film roles. “I’m looking for backing for an unauthorized autobiography that I am writing,” Bowie answered. “Hopefully, this will sell in such huge numbers that I will be able to sue myself for an extraordinary amount of money and finance the film version in which I will play everybody.”

Mary Jo Bang’s brilliant poems might be the soundtrack to such a movie, where the first-person speaker plays herself and everyone she’s ever met. She falls in and out of love with men, with women, and struggles to realize her ambitions while suffering crushing losses that give rise to dark thoughts. She’s drawn to stories that mirror her own condition: those of women who struggle to speak in a world that would silence them. Embedded in these poems are those minor events that inexplicably persist in the memory and become placeholders: the time she lied and had her mouth washed out with soap; the time someone said she wasn’t his “original idea of beauty but something. / Something he couldn’t quite // put his hands on”; the time she stood in indifferent moonlight on a pier as a cat lapped at the water. Tinged with dark humor and sharpened with keen camerawork, A Film in Which I Play Everyone stars Bang at her best, her most provocative.

Praise For…

"Bang's latest plumbs the nature of identity with limber lines and cheeky aplomb."The New York Times Book Review

"Mary Jo Bang’s new collection, A Film in Which I Play Everyone, is full of the sly wit and unsettling profundity for which she’s so well known. I’ve read and enjoyed her previous eight collections, and I think this one is my favorite. The range of these poems offers so many different entry points, so many different little plots to engage with."— Ron Charles, The Washington Post's Book Club Newsletter

"A Film in Which I Play Everyone is a remarkable and sweeping collection of poems that turn inward again and again, each participating in a broader narrative of self-actualization. . . . This book is indeed cinematic, but it contains far more than a film could ever hope."—Ronnie K. Stephens, The Poetry Question

"These inventive, sharp poems are written like the best scenes of a film, the kind that make a movie memorable, and Bang directs her readers toward the points of view she wants them to experience, in the exact way she wants them to be experienced, like any good filmmaker would."—Amber Tamblyn, Bust Magazine

"Only time will tell if A Film in Which I Play Everyone is Bang’s masterpiece, but there is no denying that with Bang at the height of her craft, it doesn’t appear that the poetic curtains of the stage she’s built over the past three decades will be closing anytime soon."—Esteban Rodríguez, The Adroit Journal

"Reading the poems in Bang’s new book is a bit like dreaming, or a bit like listening to someone think, or like remembering disparate events in one’s life, or, perhaps more accurately, like listening to oneself think about disparate memories from one’s life that have been filtered through dreams. In short, it is far from a logical and linear experience, but reading the book does what poetry is supposed to do: it helps us navigate the world in a new way."—David Starkey, California Review of Books

“The poems in Mary Jo Bang’s latest collection, “A Film in Which I Play Everyone,” are full of pleasure, color, sound and light — but also torment.” —Elisa Gabbert, The New York Times Book Review

"These deeply observed poems explore what it is to find oneself trapped in a role—that of Daphne or Sisyphus, Ophelia or Hamlet—and discover that the only escape is through self-knowledge and imagination."—Tiffany Troy, Rain Taxi

"For all of us who are searching for ways to understand the life given to us, A Film in Which I Play Everyone parses that endless mystery."—Annelie Hyatt, Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism

"Many of these poems deal either directly or indirectly with outsiderness—the feeling that someone else is directing your movie. . . . She is suggesting, it seems, that being oneself, and being at peace with the world, can be a good and even necessary alternative to being in power. Then again, why should the two be mutually exclusive? Why should anyone have to choose?"—Liza Katz Duncan, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Bang’s cinematic ninth collection (after A Doll for Throwing) takes a tour of lived experience through a capricious lens that superpositions the familiar and the uncanny. . . . Wry and invigorating, this resonant collection mollifies the need for certainty."—Publishers Weekly

“Hollywood, a metaphor for perfection, is supposed to be this big thing, this dream—the money and the glamor. But through an oscillating scope of reflection, Bang points out how narrow the framing of a film lens can be, how self-concerned we are yet still, self-doubting.”—Katy Scarlett, Michigan Quarterly Review

Product Details
ISBN: 9781644452479
ISBN-10: 1644452472
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Publication Date: September 5th, 2023
Pages: 96
Language: English